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Cablegate: Taking Al-Manar Off Arab Satellites

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 008321

SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/POUNDS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/25/2015

TAGS: PTER PGOV KISL EG

SUBJECT: TAKING AL-MANAR OFF ARAB SATELLITES

Classified by Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone for reasons

1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (U) This is an action message. Please see paragraph 7.

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Summary

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2. (C) Embassy Cairo has been engaging the GOE, the Arab League, and Cairo-based foreign diplomats, to take action to remove Hizballah´s Al-Manar TV from the GOE-owned Nilesat. Building on efforts already made by Embassy Beirut, and drawing from materials compiled by the U.S. Foundation for the Defense of Democracy (FDD), we have been arguing to the GOE that Al-Manar´s inflammatory programming, which glorifies acts of terror and spreads disinformation, poses an unacceptable threat to the security of the region and the wider world. To date GOE and other interlocutors have been responding positively but we have detected no effective action. We believe a sustained regional approach could produce better results. We suggest that Washington agencies report interagency action on Al-Manar to NEA posts, provide us needed technical and legal expertise, and set up formal monitoring of Al-Manar and other broadcasters inciting hatred and terror. Our ensuing regional advocacy work could also target local advertisers or banks dealing with Al-Manar, complementing efforts by Embassies Cairo and Riyadh to persuade the GOE and the SAG to take Hizballah TV off Nilesat and Arabsat. End summary.

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Taking the Case to Cairo

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3. (C) Among the Embassy´s priorities in the past month has been engaging the GOE on the need to drop Al-Manar, Hizballah´s noxious and terror-inciting satellite channel, from GOE-owned Nilesat, which has a footprint that covers much of North Africa, the Middle East, and southern Europe. Al-Manar´s slickly produced and inflammatory programming poses a serious threat to international security. The Ambassador has raised the issue directly with the Foreign Minister, the Minister of Information, and Intelligence Chief Omar Soliman, showing them several clips exemplary of Al-Manar´s continuous incitement of terrorism from a DVD compiled by the U.S. NGO Foundation for the Defense of Democracy (FDD). The Ambassador also raised Al-Manar with Arab League SYG Amre Moussa on October 26, leaving with him, too, a copy of the DVD.

4. (C) During a mid-October visit to Cairo, Staffdel Rickman raised the issue of Al-Manar with the Chairman of the Egyptian Government´s State Information Service. Emboffs have also been raising the issue with working-level GOE contacts as well as with contacts in the Arab League and with counterparts in western Embassies in Cairo. In our discussions with European colleagues, we have stressed the direct interest their countries have in preventing this incitement from reaching Muslim audiences resident in their respective countries.

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GOE Response: A Mixed Bag

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5. (C) The GOE response has been mixed to date. Our Egyptian interlocutors have expressed agreement with our position, but we have detected no effective action yet to remove Al-Manar from Nilesat. Some Egyptians at first claimed dismissively that al-Manar´s viewership in Egypt is low, adding that Al-Manar´s Shi´a character would continue to limit its appeal among Sunni Arab audiences. The Egyptians´ interest level increased markedly after personally viewing the clips--especially one urging viewers to contribute to Hizballah through accounts of Egyptian (and other regional) banks. Our GOE contacts have also taken note that France, laudably, has already led the way by removing Al-Manar from Hotbird, which reaches all of Europe and much of North Africa. We have also helped our GOE contacts focus by noting that Congress was increasingly interested in the Manar issue, and aware of the GOE´s ownership of Nilesat.


6. (C) Minister of Information Anas al-Fiqqi, a polished member of Gamal Mubarak´s reformist circle, has told us he "has been looking for any means" to pull the plug on al-Manar, but claimed that the GOE´s legal scope to revoke Al-Manar´s Nilesat contract is limited. Fiqqi, and other GOE contacts, have opined that the issue would have to be pursued through Arab political channels and have expressed a strong preference that, rather than going first, Manar be simultaneously dropped from Saudi-owned Arabsat (a view the State Information Service Director repeated to Staffdel Rickman). Fiqqi also pointed to Hizballah´s influence in Lebanon, and asked for unspecified U.S. help with the GOL. Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit, who was visibly impressed after the Ambassador showed him the clips (ref B), assured A/S Welch in a subsequent meeting that he "was working on it."

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More Action Needed

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7. (C) We recommend the Department and other U.S. national security agencies consider further steps to advance the goal of taking Al-Manar off the air. These steps could include:

--Broader diplomatic engagement with European and Arab governments. This campaign should also aim to inform posts and regional governments on the legal and national security policy issues at stake. Adverstisers dealing with Al-Manar need to be explicitly warned that they are doing business with a terrorist organization.

--Interagency counter-terror finance scrutiny of Arab banks cited in Manar´s fundraising solicitations, and instructions to the field for appropriate follow-up actions with those banks and their host governments.

--Increased American and/or cooperative international monitoring of Al-Manar and of any other satellite broadcasts and webcasts that constitute incitement to terrorism.

RICCIARDONE

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